NHS Spreadsheet Error Costs Junior Doctors Their Jobs

The humble spreadsheet strikes again – this time costing junior doctors in the U.K.’s National Health Service their jobs, as recently reported.

The NHS spreadsheet error occurred when interview result data, produced by an electronic marking system, was incorrectly copied into a new sheet with a new format. This resulted in incorrect rankings being given to candidates and hence jobs offered to junior doctors who in reality didn’t qualify for the posts.

While the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has quickly rescinded the job offers made, the impact of this blunder is significant for the candidates in question, who have potentially made life choices based upon the job offer to them. The RCP also faces the prospect of legal action, the cost of which could be substantial.

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Due to the extensive use of spreadsheets for data collection, manipulation and management, and indeed the volume of information involved, human error is unsurprising.

Nevertheless, time and again, across industries, human error in spreadsheet use comes to the fore. However, organizations are simply not learning from these highly publicized debacles.

Time for organizations to step up

It’s time that organizations take responsibility for the correct use of spreadsheets in the establishment and adopt a best-practice policy for their use. They owe it to their staff, the wider organization and their stakeholders, with Conviviality and Carillion being recent cases in point.

A technology-led approach is the only answer, if RCP had provided its staff with automated tools such as “track changes” for Excel, this type of error would be less likely to have occurred…and people’s lives and an organization’s reputation would not have been damaged.

If spreadsheet management is an area your organization is exploring, we offer the solution.  Because minimizing and mitigating spreadsheet risk is a cost-effective and easy win.

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